While the second Beta development milestone of Firefox 4.0 doesn’t bring to the table changes on the same radical level as the first Beta, it does introduce a range of modifications to the user interface and a few new features. This is of course, part of the natural process of development. And although no aspects of the Firefox 4.0 project are set in stone, it is easy to now see the direction that Mozilla is heading in with the next major iteration of its open source browser.
Tabs on top are here to stay, this much is clear. I have seen negative feedback from long time Firefox users reacting to the UI overhaul suffered by Firefox 4.0, but it seems to have failed to deter Mozilla in any way from its plans. The browser vendor has now extended the new revamped design to the Mac OS X edition of Firefox 4.0 in addition to that of Windows, while Linux users still have to exercise their patience a tad longer.
“Mac and Windows users now have all their tabs on the top of the browser. We moved the tabs to the top to make it easier to focus on the Web content and easier to control the tools in your Web browser. If you have Windows 7 or Windows Vista, the Menu bar is replaced with a single Firefox button so you get to the most used options with just one click,” revealed Mike Beltzner, Mozilla’s Director of Firefox.
Firefox 4.0 Beta 2 also comes with App Tabs, a new feature designed to enhance Tab management, a different approach than the recently unveiled Tab Candy. Essentially, App Tabs allows users to transform the tabs for certain websites they visit often into buttons on the browser’s UI, streamlining access as much as possible.
“There are some websites you visit many times throughout your day, such as your email, social networks, music or game sites. Now you can turn the websites you use most into App Tabs to easily find the ones you need. App Tabs offer a better way to manage tabs, saving space on the tab bar and making it easy to find frequently used tabs,” Beltzner added.
And of course, there are additional changes on top of new features and the UI modifications on the surface. Firefox 4.0 Beta 2 also evolved under-the-hood, offering developers new features, including CSS3 Transitions, Retained Layers and XPCOM Framework.
“The Firefox 4 Beta now has support for new CSS3 features like Transitions and Transformations, making it fun to add elegant animations to your websites. To show what CSS3 Transitions can do, we added them to the Firefox 4 Beta “What’s New” page. Adding Retained Layers in Firefox 4 Beta allows for super-fast scrolling on complex websites. We made changes to the XPCOM framework that improves start up time when you load Firefox,” Beltzner explained.
Mozilla also dealt with a variety of issues impacting Firefox 4.0 Beta 1. Early adopters that will jump at the chance of test driving Beta 2 will notice that a range of problems have been fixed. All in all, no less than 670 issues have been resolved with the advent of Firefox 4.0 Beta 2.
Another aspect of the open source browser’s evolution is related to localization. Firefox 4.0 Beta 2 is currently available in no less than 23 different languages. “Thanks to the help of the global Mozilla community, we’re now able to bring Firefox 4 Beta to more people around the world,” Beltzner said.
Firefox 4.0 Beta 2 for Windows is available for download here.
Firefox 4.0 Beta 2 for Mac OS X is available for download here.